Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is calling for a federal investigation on behalf of the families of 215 people found buried in a pauper’s cemetery behind a jail near Jackson, Mississippi without their relatives’ knowledge.
Crump wants to know why officials failed to investigate these deaths and did not try to contact next of kin, rather than burying them in a pauper’s grave near a dirt road by the Hinds County Penal Farm, which is about 15 miles west of downtown Jackson.
The attorney also noted that there are several hundred more unmarked graves, totaling 672.
“We’re seeking to have the federal Department of Justice come in and do an investigation to make sure that each and every one of these citizens, disproportionately Black citizens, whose lives matter will be identified, their families notified, and them given a proper funeral,” Crump told PBS last week.
Crump has joined forces with Reverend Hosea Hines, senior Pastor of the Christ Tabernacle Church and the national leader of A New Day Coalition for Equity and Black America, to call for an investigation into the causes of the 215 deaths.
“It really saddens my heart to know that their relatives went that long, some over a year, not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive and then coming to the realization that they had been buried in a pauper’s grave behind a jailhouse,” Hines told The Chicago Crusader. “If they had been properly notified, they would have been able to pay their proper respects.
“People all across America are scratching their heads in disbelief about what’s happening in Jackson, Mississippi, with this pauper’s graveyard,” Crump said at a recent news conference. “It went from talking about the water” that was non-existent or contaminated, “to now we’re talking about the graveyard. What is going on in Jackson, Mississippi?”
Hines said that the chief of the Jackson Police Department, Joseph Wade, has instituted a new death notification policy “that would give relatives information about their deaths and the cause.”
“I have spoken with the chief, and he has told me he will implement policies and procedures to ensure this won’t happen again and to hold those individuals responsible for what has occurred,” Hines said.
“There needs to be a real call for justice” for the 215 Black, white, Hispanic, and Native Americans who were buried behind the jailhouse, Hines added, according to the Crusader.